Her writer-director Spike Jonze has truly crafted the most unique of romances with his story of a man who falls in love with his operating system.
As teased in the Her trailer, Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore, and he lives in an idyllic Los Angeles in the near future, or is it an alternative universe? Theodore works as a handwritten letter writer with a flair for the literary that is steeped in the purest emotions of the human condition. While out one day he comes across a kiosk selling an operating system that will not only organize your life, tech gadgets and even your home... but it possesses the ability to learn and yes, emote.
Once he installs it, the OS introduces itself as Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who is incredible and deserves awards attention). Immediately there is uncanny chemistry between Theodore and Samantha. They make each other laugh and simultaneously learn about each other as their bond grows deeper.
Theodore is in the process of divorcing his wife (Rooney Mara), and he feels scarred. And in a fabulous example of screenwriting at its finest, Jonze paints a picture of how the discovery of love can mend a heart -- even if the subject of those amorous feelings doesn't possess a physical body.
With that theme as his roadmap, Jonze takes his audience on a journey that recalls some of Hollywood's great romances. And yes, even if one of those involved in this love-fest is a computer program. It would be easy to think the auteur is trying to make a broader statement about technology and its growing presence in our society. But Movie Fanatic believes that Jonze is simply trying to tell a love story and manages in the process to impressively quantify the unquantifiable -- love itself.
Adding the human element outside of the Theodore-Samantha courtship is our protagonist's neighbor, played by Amy Adams (soon to be also seen in American Hustle). She too has had and is having relationship issues, and we learn she and Theodore have been friends since childhood. She also is developing a relationship with her OS, albeit a BFF-type one. If anyone can understand what Theodore is going through, it’s her, and as played by Adams, she is simultaneously understanding, supportive and also lurking behind the scenes… a potential love interest all on her own. Adams turns in a performance that is powerful, vulnerable and awkwardly vivacious all at the same time.
We cannot say enough also about the production design and the look of the film. In Her, writer-director Spike Jonze has crafted a Los Angeles landscape that most Angelinos would love to inhabit. It is a futuristic looking world, yet it possesses a feel that has us thinking it’s the not-so-distant future. But in the way that Jonze shoots his scenes, there is also an otherworldly aspect to it that has you feeling slightly askew when it comes to where -- and when -- this story takes place. It is simply mysterious and magnificent.
Our Her review also finds that Jonze has crafted what is his masterpiece on so many levels. It is a film that will be studied in film schools for years to come, and it is evidence of the power of Hollywood to reinvent itself and a genre that seemed like it had pushed all the boundaries it could.